WHEN IT comes to how Republican leaders view “The Simpsons,” a lot has apparently changed in a quarter-century.
In 1992, President George H.W. Bush took a dim view of the then-new Fox animated series, saying of his Republican ticket: “We are going to keep on trying to strengthen the American family, to make American families a lot more like the Waltons and a lot less like the Simpsons.”
On Thursday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference near Washington, reportedly told the assemblage: “I think the Democrats are the party of Lisa Simpson, and Republicans are happily the party of Homer and Bart and Maggie and Marge.”
To which “Simpsons” showrunner Al Jean replies: “We’ve come up in the world.”
Jean is speaking tongue fully in cheek, because he believes Cruz, a self-professed big “Simpsons” fan, is off base. (Cruz is the man who in 2016 ventured in pop-culture waters to compare then-candidate Donald Trump to the villainous Biff from “Back to the Future”; a year earlier, he notably botched a “Simpsons” quote.)
On Thursday, according to the Hill, Cruz was responding to a question by the moderator, Federalist founder Ben Domenech, about a 1997 episode, titled “The Cartridge Family.” It pits Homer’s pro-gun stance against Lisa’s belief that the Second Amendment is a Revolutionary War remnant that “has no meaning today.” Domenech wondered: How might this pop reference be illuminating?
Cruz responded by saying that most of the Simpsons family is more aligned with his party’s side in this debate.
To which Jean replies by phone: Cruz’s claiming of four of the main five Simpsons characters is “too greedy.”
“Ted Cruz says Maggie Simpson would vote for him,” Jean had tweeted earlier Thursday. “I think Ted’s the one who could use a pacifier in his mouth.” Jean followed that with: “The way things are going even Mr. Burns is thinking of becoming a Democrat.”
The funny thing is, Jean tells The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs, he might still be on the GOP’s side if his party had not changed so much.
“I grew up as a moderate Republican,” Jean says of his Detroit-area upbringing in the 1960s and ’70s, adding: “I couldn’t vote in 1976, but I would have voted for [Gerald] Ford.”
Jean also happens to think Dwight Eisenhower was “one of the greatest presidents we ever had,” he says, and that “it’s astounding how much smarter he was than he ever gets credit for.”
So what happened between then and now? “To quote Ronald Reagan,” Jean says, ” ‘My party left me.’ ”
A Republican Party that does not believe in human-influenced climate change or national security threats from Russia, Jean says, is not the GOP he recognizes.
So how might the Simpsons themselves react to Cruz’s take on their political leanings?
Lisa Simpson would tell Cruz: “I’m sorry, you lost me. You’re obviously an intelligent man — you might tend to agree with me” if you understood “my stand on the issues,” Jean says. (The character was less cynical about modern politics back in 1991, Jean notes, when the episode “Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington” aired.)
Jean says that Marge Simpson would tell Cruz: “I think voting is a private matter between a woman and [her] voting machine.”
And Homer would reply: “The last time I voted was in 2008 for ‘American Idol.’ ”